Stairs come in many different styles and are made of several different materials, but their main purpose--getting us from one elevation to another--is a universal constant. While squeaks and creaks on residential stairs might not mean much in the way of safety, moderately or severely damaged stairs are definitely a cause for concern.
The National Safety Council suggests that the United States sees about 12,000 stair deaths a year, with about half of those occurring in the home. As you can imagine, the number of stair related injuries is even higher. With statistics like these, it is clear that even when stairs are in good repair, folks of all ages and backgrounds are still prone to have accidents on them. Any homeowner--especially those with small children--should be aware of not only the dangers of broken stairs, but the many simple ways to make the stairs inside the home safer, as well.
1.Broken Outdoor Stairs
The consistent exposure to direct sunlight, heavy rains, freezing temperatures, and the weight of snow and ice can really take its toll on outdoor stairs--particularly those made of wood. Loose and rotting boards are accidents waiting to happen, and though many homeowners insurance policies will protect you from liability (even if an injury occurs due to negligence), few would disagree that it is much better to prevent accidents in the first place.
Each year, make sure that you inspect your outdoor stairs in the spring to see if winter damage has caused any issues likely to cause injury. It is also a good idea to inspect railings and banisters to ensure that they are firmly in place and free or splintering wood.
2.Broken Basement Stairs
While the stairs in basements might not see the extreme heat and cold that outdoor stairs have to deal with, damp conditions and infrequent use make this a prime area for injuries caused by unsound steps. Those with basements that are not finished must be especially vigilant, as unfinished basements are notorious for harboring high moisture levels that can cause wooden stairs to degrade. Make sure to examine basement stairs a few times a year and note any signs of bowing, splitting, heaving, or decay.
3.Stairways Between Floors in the Home
Stairs that are inside the home and lead from one floor to another are the least likely to harbor damage that goes unnoticed. On the other hand, because these stairs are generally used far more often than any other stairs in or around the home, they are more likely to be the backdrop for an injury.
If your stairs are carpeted, check for and remove any loose fibers that are long enough to snag onto a shoe. Additionally, carpeted stairs can be a bit slippery depending on the age of the carpet and the style of fiber, so make sure that railings and banisters are both present and fixed firmly in place. Wood stairs can also be slippery--especially those with a high gloss finish; pads designed specifically to increase grip on wood stairs are an affordable and fast way to lower the chances of slipping without any structural changes.
4.What a Broken Stair Is Hiding
Sometimes a broken stair is just a broken stair. In many cases, however, a stair that becomes severely damaged that is not inflicted by a specific, acute impact (i.e. an isolated instance of something heavy being dropped on it) is likely to be hiding a deeper issue. Carpeted stairs are particularly good at hiding underlying damage like rot or mold, and one weakened stair is often a sign that more issues are just around the corner. Don't wait until someone get's injured to address problems with your stairs! Though repairing or replacing a well-aged or otherwise structurally compromised staircase might not be the cheapest project in the world, it's a lot better to get the job done before hospital bills are added into the equation.
While the stairs in basements might not see the extreme heat and cold that outdoor stairs have to deal with, damp conditions and infrequent use make this a prime area for injuries caused by unsound steps.